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State audit shows Bowmansville Volunteer Fire Association "misused" funds

Posted at 12:00 AM, Mar 29, 2019

BOWMANSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — A Lancaster fire department has been flagged by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, accused of mishandling nearly half a million dollars.

A newly released audit shows holes in the Bowmansville Volunteer Fire Association’s bookkeeping. According to the state audit, $426, 719 was not “adequately safeguard(ed)” by the Bowmansville Volunteer Fire Association between April 2012 through November 2014.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says his office has reason to believe there's a risk funds were “misspent, misused or improper.” The audit shows almost $146,000 dollars--$78,441 by checks paid by the Former Treasurer and $67, 303 in debit charges-- went to questionable businesses.

The fire association's attorney claims debit cards were stolen by "an international criminal organization", which allowed them to recoup some of the money back from the bank and never filed a police report.

The audit also found a treasurer at the time manually prepared 99 checks to “suspicious businesses.” Around two dozen of those were traced to a bank in Quebec, Canada. The treasurer resigned the same month the state sent an audit engagement letter.

The audit uncovered that the former fire chief claimed 40 restaurant transactions totaling almost $5,000 with no receipts. Also, more than $14,000 in proceeds from a March 2013 gun raffle was missing.

The State Comptroller’s Office says this all occurred through a series of mistakes under the “inadequate oversight” by the department’s leaders and “because the former treasurer circumvented what minimal internal controls were in place.”

The audit made specific recommendations about how to fix the issue and in a letter to the comptroller’s office dated October 2018, the Bowmansville Volunteer Fire Association has committed to implementing those suggestions.